Thursday, October 29, 2009

When A Closing Marks a New Beginning

I was a tad concerned that my last post could come across as too preachy, too holier-than-thou. That was not my intention. I certainly am not one to prance around and act like I know everything, but I can’t deny that I am proud of that bit of wisdom that I learned. Maybe some people already know it; maybe some people already live it. Maybe it is a twist on the Random Act of Kindness phenomenon that I repackaged and am trying to spin off as my own. Regardless,

I can almost trace its genesis. About a year ago, a woman who lives in my building died. She had a huge family, and some of them were staying in her apartment after she died to organize the funeral and her estate. I ran into a family member in the elevator. He was extremely kind and sweet to the girls, which always makes me instantly like someone. In parting, I said to him “Please let me know if there is anything I can do” and even gave him my apartment number so he could contact me. So we went our separate ways and it occurred to me: He is NEVER going to knock on my door and say, “Hey, you know what? We could use some dinner. Got anything?” The ball was in my court, and I see now that I could have just made some cookies and left them on their doorstep. The gesture would have been appreciated. I still regret that I did nothing.

This then begs the question: I am doing these things for others because it makes me feel better about myself? Am I being altruistic, or selfish? What motivates us, as people, to drop some money in a collection basket at church or give a few dollars to a homeless person or, more close to home, bring over a tray of brownies to a sad friend? Sure, we feel compassion, but that is an emotion, and, as we have all experienced in our lives, emotions can be ignored, denied or avoided till the cows come home. Being altruistic involves some sort of action, some sort of sacrifice on our part, even if that sacrifice is only time. What exactly pushes us to take the next step? Saying “Let me know if there is anything I can do” is like a bridge between the compassion camp and the altruistic camp. What happens next is completely up to us, and not the sad or grieving or depressed or lost person. And for me, I am trying to cross that bridge.

All of the comments on that last post were great. It was great to read how people already live this. I agree how there is a fine line between being intrusive and being thoughtful, and no one wants to be considered intrusive. Ordering someone a box from Fresh Direct, as Shelli wrote, is such a wonderful idea. I may steal that one! Leaving voicemails for a distant and depressed friend is unbelievably caring. From personal experience, I can vouch that voicemails and emails and messages and comments have helped pull me out of quite a few bad times. And, also from personal experience, I know how hard it is to be in the middle of your own hell and how difficult it is to then help others or be a good friend. I am sure there are studies that say helping others might distract you from your own pain, but I call BS on that.

This comment really resonated with me: “I appreciate people's respect of my privacy...but it is also my quest for privacy that prolongs my isolation.” This has been my experience completely. Pain and suffering and depression for me have historically been very isolating periods, and I am certainly not doing myself any favors by not returning emails or calls or accepting invitations to go out. But I hope going forward, I can learn to reach out more; to stop pretending like I can do everything myself; to admit that I can’t get through some of life’s challenges without a little (a lot) of help from my friends.

And to the commentor who lives outside the city and who just lost a baby at 21 weeks: I left a comment for you under my last post.

In other news: Yesterday, on my nephew’s seventh birthday, we closed on the house in Northampton! Nicole drove up and did the final walk-through and then signed all the papers. It all seems like a dream. We are going up this weekend, and the weekend after that, and the weekend after that, ad infinitum!

Pictured above: Not sure if we are going to Trick or Treat, because I am trying to ensure that the girls have no idea what candy is for at least another three years, but if we do, they will be pumpkins. Also pictured, Avery and her chocolate-covered Godiva strawberry. I got the girls these as special treats, not knowing that they cost $6.50 EACH. So I plunked down almost $14 for two strawberries. I would have walked out, but, in my haste to show them how delicious fruit and chocolate can be, I put the strawberries in their eager little hands before I paid. And don’t be fooled by this picture: Avery only licked the chocolate off of hers. Never again. And finally, a new donut and ice cream shop is opening around the corner from us. This is dangerous for two reasons: 1.) I can consume six or seven donuts in one sitting and 2.) I can’t get its name straight. I have already reversed the two words and left off the “y”, creating a very porn-worthy name in its place.


Shelli said...

so when's the Northhampton party? need help painting? :)

Am serious, actually.... Maybe do a labor swap? Escape the city in exchange fro some sweat equity?

And I will now have the porn-y name of that store stuck in my head. Thanks.

Calliope said...

your last post really reverbed with me but I didn't know how to leave a comment that didn't sound overly needy or something. Being in the midst of mourning and grief and coming from a Southern upbringing I sort of expected more comfort and help in dealing with Grandmother's death but it has almost been like nothing happened. I guess this is because we don't live in the city where she is buried and because we don't really know anyone here. And I should say that the neighbors that collected our mail did make us a quiche and that made me cry.

I think (& jesus hell WHY am I leaving this comment on your new post and not on the old one?!) I think that helping someone through a tough time (a phone call, a good deed, whatever) acknowledges that SOMETHING happened or is happening and that acknowledgment is good for healing process.

And I say this because I feel like I can't even process grief because it feels like nothing happened because no one is treating me/my family differently.

Yesterday a neighbor four houses down asked me how Grandmother was and I said "fine" and went about my walk. And two blocks later I realized what I had said.

um. sorry for the comment hijack...